Okay, I admit it: writing is therapy for me. Yes, writing allows me to work out problems. And, even better, I get to play all the characters and have things go the way I want - most of the time, unless the characters take the story in a new direction. That’s when they drive me crazy and, in retaliation, I may have to torture them. Do I sound a bit insane? Imagine how nuts I’d be if I didn’t have an outlet.
After my divorce, all I did was write. I finished Vestel Virgin (Suspense in Ancient Rome) and my (then) agent shopped it around, but it was too dark for New York. Of course, it didn’t help that I wrote the novel as my marriage fell apart. I poured all my angst into the story - even visualized my ex’s girlfriend as I wrote a torture scene. But the book has a happy ending. It was cathartic to have the love story part of the novel play out the way I wanted - and the characters graciously complied. Having spent that year after my divorce working and writing (often ten hours a day), hardly seeing any people, except my writers’ group, I put Vestel Virgin (Suspense in Ancient Rome) away. I felt discouraged that I’d had two agents and still hadn’t sold a book to a publisher. (I finally picked up Vestel Virgin (Suspense in Ancient Rome) again last summer and rewrote it - it’s not as dark, I promise.)
Instead of spending all my time holed up writing, I began to have a life again. I ventured out into the world, and I met a man I really liked, a fellow writer. I was so excited about meeting a kindred soul, that I had no time to write. I wanted to play! Oh sure, I wrote lousy poetry - mostly love poems rife with sexual innuendo. I wrote so much lousy poetry, that it actually improved, and some of it was even published.
But the guy I fell in love with, didn’t fall in love with me - and, out of desperation (and determination to get past my divorce) I began to date other men: online, offline, in line, listening to lines. Most of the dates were horrendous. Dating after age fifty requires courage or brain damage - in fact, the experience will probably give you brain damage. In order to retain my sanity, I documented my dates in short story format. I figured, if nothing else, I made myself laugh and I was entertaining my writers’ group. Sometimes, I’d even reenact the dates at dinner parties. Finally, I started reading the stories out loud at the local library - and people thought they were funny.
That gave me hope. And I wrote a few more stories. Then, last summer, my good friend, Blake Crouch, convinced me to put together a collection of nine short stories and publish them on Kindle. I needed a good title, something along the lines of "The Vagina Monologues." I came up with Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction).
Aside from writing the stories, publishing the book has saved me hundreds of dollars in therapy. I’m actually making money, instead of spending it.
Being an indie author has been extremely freeing. And, best of all, I now have readers! Writing without having anyone read your work is kind of like foreplay with no hope of orgasm. If that goes on for long enough, you could end up in the psych ward.
I studied Gestalt psychology for five years, and for me as a writer, finally having readers is a Gestalt experience. According to Gestalt, energy flows in waves. All experience is part of a continuum that builds to a climax - a need that grows in intensity. Once that need is met, the energy releases and subsides. And then it builds again. If a need is never met, the energy gets stuck and causes anxiety, even depression. This plays out in relationships, and it played out for me with my writing. I became depressed, and I stopped writing, because I didn’t have readers. Essentially, I short-circuited. A writer needs readers to complete the writing experience.
The ebook revolution has been a major Gestalt for the publishing industry - an industry that was stuck and dying. For me, the experience of writing, publishing, having people read my work and respond - has been a form of therapy. Releasing a book is definitely a Gestalt experience.
This year I plan to publish two more books. Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales, a collection of weird short stories, ranging from flash fiction to gothic, will come out this summer. And I’m currently working on another historical suspense novel, Agathon’s Daughter. The book is set in ancient Greece, so it requires lots of research. Sometimes the process drives me crazy: writing and backtracking to check facts, moving forward and then backwards - the characters have me going in circles. Writing a first draft feels like punching my way out of a bag. But when I get too frustrated I just kill someone or torture them, and I feel better - of course, I’m referring to a character, not my ex.